As the fall semester gets off to a busy start, graduate students working toward their MA and MFA degrees have begun to exhibit their latest artworks. This year’s review show is called “///Some.” In it, 18 graduate students in the art department showcase one piece that best represents their progress in two years of study.
Upon first entering the exhibition space, the viewer’s initial response may be one of surprise. The seemingly sparse amount of art housed in the large room sets a quiet tone. However, this initial confrontation with stark openness grows familiar and comforting. The calmly-lit, concrete gallery and its white walls demand a quiet observation from the viewer. The viewer must focus with intensity — as if listening to hear the art speak — rather than simply looking at it. The tone is aptly set and compliments the general muted palette among the paintings, prints and sculptures dotting the walls. Each individual piece effectively draws the viewer in for further examination and elucidates greater detail through its craftsmanship and, in some cases, significant conceptual meaning. Kendall McMinimy’s piece “Eminence Dissipated” is a fine example of exploration of materials and well-controlled technique. He uses white plaster to produce geometric shapes in an off-kilter arrangement. A circular relief form presents color and a pattern of unrecognizable imagery. McMinimy’s piece draws the viewer’s eye in every direction. The seemingly subtle characteristics of the plaster material become alive with rhythm.
On the opposite side of the room a small plastic tarp hangs by two pins on each corner of its horizontal length. Unusually shaped, with cut-in square edges and the occasional organic hole shape, the clear plastic has been carefully embroidered with thread and encased in a blanket stitch. Large powder-pink and rose-colored lettering across the lower half reads, “I could just give up and be my mother.” The piece is titled “Dowry,” created by Dominique Haller. Without having the luxury of seeing any other work by the artist, it is difficult to understand the level of sarcasm that Haller is striving for. Undoubtedly, every viewer will take away a different response.
Almost hidden on the back right wall of the gallery is “Eulogy,” by Jordan Adams. This large-scale oil painting on panel has an unusual quality mark-making. Unlike traditional oil on panel, Adams’ approach challenges medium and application. Dark, ruddy black-browns and a center vignette of fuchsia-tinted oils melt across the surface, creating an illusion of a wondrous landscape. Some portions have been tightly controlled to juxtapose the gravity-induced dripping with straight edges. The title lends a melancholy atmosphere to the work, yet the technique provides a more magical one.
The overall exhibit holds together in continuity with a muted palette. Amidst the silent nature of the show, characteristics of movement appear to create “noise,” however subtle it may be. The level of ability to which each artist is able to express their own theory and stand out in a room of highly-trained artists is impressive.
The art department at the University of Wisconsin reigns strongly in the academic art world. In a national survey conducted by US News & World Report, UW-Madison’s overall graduate art program ranks in at number 18, scoring even higher in printmaking and metals at second and third place, respectively.
“///Some” runs through September 20th. Check the UW-Madison art department website for more information.